Gavin Plumb weeps in dock as guilty of plan to kidnap, rape and murder TV presenter Holly Willoughby

Body-worn video footage of the arrest of Gavin Plumb, who has been found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court of masterminding a plot to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A security guard wept in the dock as he was found guilty of masterminding “graphic” plans to kidnap, rape and murder TV presenter Holly Willoughby. Gavin Plumb developed an “obsession” with the star over a number of years and assembled an “abduction kit” – complete with handcuffs and metal cable ties – to help carry out his attack.

A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court dismissed the 37-year-old’s defence that his plans were a “mere fantasy”, agreeing with the prosecution that he was a “prolific liar who sought to minimise the extent of his criminality”. The jury took 12 hours and 19 minutes to unanimously convict him of soliciting murder and inciting rape and kidnap.

As the verdicts were returned, Plumb slowly shook his head and stared at the floor of the dock. He then began to weep as he was sent down to the cells, sniffling as he tried to hold back tears.

Plumb slowly shook his head and looked down at the floor as the verdicts were read out. The defendant, who adopted the user name Big Bear to chat to others about his plot online, appeared to formulate his fantasy as early as 2011 – googling the phrase “how to meet people who plan to kidnap celebs”.

During the trial, jurors were taken through a lengthy “sequence of events” document, which displayed Plumb’s “appalling messages” to others about what he would do to the Dancing On Ice presenter. His plans were foiled when one of his potential accomplices, who went by the name of David Nelson, turned out to be an undercover officer from the Owatonna Police Department in the US state of Minnesota.

Plumb told Mr Nelson he was “definitely serious” about his plot to kidnap Ms Willoughby, leaving the officer with the impression that there was an “imminent threat” to her. Evidence was passed to the FBI and the defendant was arrested at his flat in Harlow, Essex, on October 4 last year, where he told officers: “I’m not gonna lie, she is a fantasy of mine.”

His kidnap plans involved attempting to “ambush” Ms Willoughby at her family home – even discussing taking time off work in order to organise the attack. Plumb told others he would then take the presenter to another location, which he suggested would be a “dungeon” type room.

The jury was told he checked out an abandoned stud farm with cells to “keep” Ms Willoughby. The defendant’s messages showed how he planned to rape her at the location before killing her and then putting her “into a lake at night”.

Prosecutors described Plumb’s plot as “carefully planned” – pointing to the items he had purchased and the lengths to which he had gone to find out when Ms Willoughby did not have security. In her opening to the jury, prosecutor Alison Morgan KC told the court of his previous convictions for false imprisonment and attempted kidnap, saying that they showed he “knew what it would take to terrify and overpower a woman”.

At the end of the trial, Ms Morgan highlighted the obvious flaws in Plumb’s defence – saying the “boring details” of his plans were not “sexy or gratifying”.

Plumb told jurors that bottles of chloroform he had purchased were to clean a carpet stain and that he had bought a BDSM kit, including a set of handcuffs, in 2014 “to rekindle my relationship with my ex-partner”.

He said he had read articles on “what it’s like to be raped” in 2021 in order to help a female friend, and did not initially hand over his phone’s Pin number to officers because he had previously had “problems” with the police.

The defendant also relied on his “between 25-30 stone” weight as a defence – claiming that it would not be possible for him to “jump” over Ms Willoughby’s garden wall, as he had outlined in his messages.

He told jurors his online chats were “massively regrettable” and that he was “heartbroken, disgusted and shocked” that they had come out.

Plumb will be sentenced at the same court on Friday July 12.

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